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Former priest sentenced in Morris in sex crimes case

MORRIS - A former Morris priest facing prison for possessing pornographic images of children on computers had his sentences stayed and told the court "It was difficult to tell those secrets I kept so long."

John Lloyd Caskey, 54, will serve about a month in jail, be placed on probation for five years and must adhere to several conditions as part of his sentencing Thursday before Judge Peter Hoff in Stevens County District Court.

The former Assumption Church priest was charged with 20 counts of possessing child pornography in Stevens County District Court in early 2008. In August 2008, he pled guilty to the first three counts and admitted possessing the images of minors.

Hoff said Caskey also could either pay a $1,000 fine or consent to 200 hours of community service. Caskey is prohibited from viewing or possessing pornography, he can have no unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18 and he must allow periodic and unscheduled searches of computers and other electronic equipment by Department of Corrections officials. Caskey will be permitted to have a computer and Internet access, but can't use it to view pornography and he won't be allowed to use it to access social networking sites, such as Facebook. Caskey also must submit to a psycho-sexual assessment and register as a sex offender.

If eligible, Caskey would be allowed to serve his time under Huber or Sentence to Serve work release programs.

Caskey's attorney, Daniel Eller, made his case that a prison term would not help Caskey's recovery and that he already has made progress in 14 months of a treatment program through Saint Luke Institute, a part of the Maryknoll Center in Silver Springs, Maryland, continuing attendance in Sex Addicts Anonymous and meetings with therapists.

Caskey's therapy has helped him "address the dark secrets he put away a long, long time ago," and feels he is a better person, Eller said.

Regarding the threat of prison, "if it's a question of getting his attention, that's been done. If it's a question of scaring him, that's been done," Eller said.

"The question is if jail time will make him something different than he already is," Eller said. "He has things he can offer to the community is some kind of community service."

Caskey said therapy has been working for him and that he was "very willing and looked forward to have a therapist I can talk to" and manage medications.

"I'm grateful for the chance to get well," Caskey said. "I realize how damaging the pornography was. All the images I looked at, how damaging that was. I have taken responsibility for that and I've gone through treatment with, I think, an open mind. It was difficult to tell those secrets I kept so long."

Chad Christianson, an Enhanced Sex Offender Agent for the Department of Corrections, prepared a Pre-Trial Investigation for Caskey's sentencing. Based on the report, County Attorney Charles Glasrud said he and Christianson had "some misgivings" about how complete future evaluations of Caskey would be, and Glasrud said he was also concerned that the computer images weren't the only manifestation of Caskey's behavior.

Hoff told Caskey he's pleased that Caskey has "taken steps for treatment, and that he hopes Caskey can emerge feeling good about himself and be a productive citizen.

"It seems to me things are moving along well and that what's been done (in treatment) has been successful," Hoff said.

Before his plea agreement, Caskey was facing five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine for each count.

Caskey was priest at Assumption Church in Morris and Associate Pastor in Chokio and Herman. He was officially installed at Assumption on Sept. 16, 2007 and he left the congregation in in December 2007.

Eller reported earlier in 2008 that the St. Cloud Diocese arranged for Caskey to be evaluated at Saint Luke Institute, and John Kinney, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud, said at that time that Caskey was relieved of his duties as a priest when Kinney learned of the charges.

"I was taken by surprise by these allegations," Kinney said in his statement at the time. "I have not received any complaints in the past about Caskey from any of the parishes he has served nor have I had any information that would cause me to be concerned."

Caskey served three years as Associate Priest at Assumption in the early 1980s before moving on to several other assignments. Over 25 years, Caskey has served as a military chaplain and as a pastor in numerous communities, including Browns Valley, Browerville and Clarissa. He said he is now living in the St. Cloud area.

The complaint against Caskey stated that in September 2007, the Stevens County Sheriff's Office received a complaint that an 18-year-old male had received anonymous, obscene and suggestive letters.

The investigation led Sheriff Randy Willis to interview Caskey on Nov. 30, 2007. Caskey admitted sending the letter, but "He denied that he'd done anything like this for many years," the complaint states.

Caskey also signed a consent allowing law enforcement to search his home and work computers. Capt. David Wyffels, of the Willmar Police Department conducted a forensic examination of the hard drives from the computers.

Wyffels' investigation revealed a "large number" of pornographic images on his home computer, and it was concluded that the images were entered into the computer while it was under his control. The images were almost exclusively of males, many depicting persons "obviously" under age 18, according to the complaint.

Wyffel's investigation showed that some files had been deleted, leaving only partial images on the hard drive. In all, 8,671 "suspect" images were given to the Stevens County Sheriff's Office for review, the complaint states.

Descriptions of the images in the complaint indicate that the images depict minors engaged in explicit sexual acts or poses, according to the complaint.

"The possession of this volume of such material, and the manner of its storage demonstrates knowledge by Defendant of the material's contents," the complaint states.